Adolescents’ experience of adjustment to divorce : risk and protective factors within a South African context.

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The purpose of the study was to explore adolescents‟ experience of divorce in order to determine the adjustment and associated risk and protective factors from their perspective within a South African context. The study adopted a qualitative interpretive design and the sample consisted of eleven adolescents who had experienced parental divorce. The participants were interviewed at a high school in Pietermaritzburg. The main adjustment factors found were coping skills, parental conflict, parental cooperation, parental transparency, parent-child relationships, parenting quality, lifestyle, extended family support and external social support. The main risk factors found were unhealthy coping skills, ongoing parental conflict, uncooperative parenting, lack of parental transparency, paternal emotional disconnect, abusive stepfathers, unsupportive mothers immediately after divorce, controlling, permissive and uninvolved parenting and lifestyle changes. The main protective factors found were healthy coping skills, close relationships with mothers, involved and caring parenting, supportive grandparents and close friends. Limitations of the study were the small sample size and the lack of triangulation with other sources of adolescent information. The implications for practice are the need for parent training and support, access to therapy, free and accessible information and school intervention. The main contributions of this study relate to cultural findings: isiZulu adolescent girls‟ experienced significant emotional disconnect due to paternal focus on ancestral lineage continuity; isiZulu adolescents in particular experienced inter-parental physical conflict and a sense of helplessness related to the cultural practice that children are not included in adult matters; cultural complexities surrounding accommodation of divorce also appears to be significant.


Master of Science in Counselling Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2017.